A Sept. 12 Sports article incorrectly stated that pinch hitter John Olerud flied out for the final out in the New York Yankees' 1-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox. Olerud struck out. (Published 9/23/2005)
Yankees 1, Red Sox 0
-- These are not the final days of summer. Despite what the calendar says, the footballs that are flying through the air and the white clothing now tucked away in the closet, there are still pennant races to be played out, rivalries to be settled and, for two old friends perhaps engaging in a final summertime fling, a division to be won.
The final 10 days of summer became much more interesting after the New York Yankees' 1-0 win over the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. The Yankees, thought to be buried and perhaps only suited for the wild card, have crept to within three games of the American League East lead. The two teams play again on the final weekend of the season.
"This is our postseason," Yankees Manager Joe Torre said. "We're on a quest to get there. All the games are important. When you're running out of games it's certainly important knowing we still have control of things. This was like a heavyweight battle that lived up to its advanced notice."
It can be said that Randy Johnson held the Yankees' postseason hopes in his rope-thick arms, and for seven spectacular innings he did so strongly, allowing just one hit while striking out eight. It was the type of outing that has been expected of Johnson all season, but this was the first time he had produced it in such an important game.
"Unfortunately, it took a long time to fix my mechanics," Johnson said. "That's the pitcher everyone expected. That's the pitcher I expected. Today my velocity was up because my mechanics were much better."
The only run against Boston starter Tim Wakefield, who struck out a career-high 12, was a home run on a high fly ball by Jason Giambi in the first inning that barely tucked inside the right field foul pole.
"I don't think any one of us knew it would be fair when it left the bat," Torre said.
In the seventh inning, Johnson felt his left leg cramp on a pitch to Manny Ramirez, and it continued to bother the pitcher when he faced Kevin Millar later in the inning. Johnson's leg appeared to buckle on a pitch to Millar, but he struck him out to get out of the inning.
In the eighth, Torre brought in setup man Tom Gordon, who allowed a single to the first batter he faced. After Gordon retired the next two batters, David Ortiz, who had gotten the day off, stepped out of the Boston dugout and the sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium, a mix of Red Sox and Yankees fans, both booed and cheered the feared slugger. It was the ultimate compliment for the pinch-hitting Ortiz. Torre waited for Ortiz to settle into the batter's box before he went to the mound and summoned Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees' closer had been asked to warm up almost immediately after Tony Graffanino had singled off Gordon. Rivera managed just 12 throws before the phone call came from the dugout. Rivera told them he was ready.
"I wanted to be in there and face Ortiz," Rivera said.
Rivera jogged in from the bullpen and was met with an ovation that surpassed the one given to Ortiz. The two dueled for seven pitches before Ortiz went to first base on a walk. Johnny Damon came to the plate and battled Rivera for 10 pitches before finally grounding out to first base to end the inning.
"That's why he's the best closer, at least over the last 10 years," Damon said. "He didn't miss a pitch. He was right on that corner, give or take the size of a baseball. The guy is good."
Rivera said that all 10 pitches to Damon were his trademark cutter.
"I didn't want to give him anything for him to get a blooper," Rivera said. "I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight."
In the ninth, the Red Sox put two men on base, but Rivera ended the game by forcing a fly-out from pinch hitter John Olerud. The closer had thrown 37 pitches, a huge amount for him.
"I could have thrown 100 pitches today and it wouldn't have mattered," Rivera said.
Perhaps fall has started early at Yankee Stadium. Because only in the fall do the Yankees and Red Sox play such meaningful games that seem to defy the seasons.